Prior to the Scientific Revolution, Europe and most of the world believed that the Earth was the center of the universe and that the sun, planets and stars revolved around it. This was known as the geocentric model of the universe. However, there were numerous inconsistencies observed by scientists with regard to this theory but most scientists continued to try and explain the inconsistencies rather than investigate the theory itself.
During the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church and the political structure reinforced the lack of scientific investigation. The Church focused everyone’s attention on salvation. The lives of the people were mainly concerned with eternal salvation and military conquests. The Renaissance and the Protestant Reformation changed Europe dramatically and caused people to begin to question many theories that were before considered to be explained by religion. The growth of universities gave structure to questions about the world, and learned Europeans began to examine the outside world much more closely and this caused a new revolution in science.
What is Geocentric?
How did the Renaissance and Reformation cause the Scientific Revolution?
The Copernican Revolution
In the 16th century, a Polish mathematician Nicolaus Copernicus presented the first challenge to the geocentric theory. He claimed that the sun stood at the center of the universe and that the earth moved around the sun. He worked for twenty-five years to develop what he called the heliocentric model, or sun-centered. In 1543, the year of his death, his book, On the Revolution of the Heavenly Spheres, was published. Many scientists, and both Protestant and Catholic churchmen denounced Copernicus’s theory, charging that it was illogical, unbiblical, and un-Christian.
In 1632, Galileo Galilei published his book. He wrote the work in Italian in order to reach a wide audience. Galileo was quick to defend his work; he showed how the rotation of the earth on its axis produced the rotation of the heavens. He was able to say this because he used the telescope to document his findings. The Roman Catholic Church supported the geocentric theory, and would have tolerated the heliocentric model as a hypothesis, not as proven fact. Galileo proved his theories and the Church quickly summoned him before the Inquisition in Rome. He was charged with teaching a doctrine contrary to Holy Scripture and he was forcefully compelled to recant. His book was placed on the Index of Forbidden Works and remained there until 1822.
What is heliocentric? Why did the Church claim Copernicus’s theory to be incorrect?
How did Galileo prove the heliocentric theory? Why was he summoned to Rome?
Under the scientific method, one had to prove what the mind concluded, document it, demonstrate it for others, and open it up to experimentation. At its highest stage, the scientific method required that any underlying principles be proven with mathematical precision. There were many contributors to the Scientific Revolution. The revolution started with Copernicus and spread throughout Europe. Tycho Brahebuilt Europe’s most modern astronomical laboratory where he and his associates collected data about the planets and the stars.